By Mike Dickerson
Forbes Councils Member
Forbes Technology Council
Mike Dickerson is the Chief Executive Officer of ClickDimensions, the leader in marketing for Microsoft Dynamics 365.
The modern buyer’s journey has completely transformed from what it was 10 years ago. The advent of self-directed exploration and continued advances in technology were already pushing buyers further down the digital-first path, but the era of Covid-19 has rapidly moved up the timetable. Buyers don’t want to meet in person anymore and have robbed salespeople of one of their greatest advantages—the ability to command buyers’ undivided attention. This shift has led to a decline in the overall sales pipeline, with few leads and even fewer conversions to opportunities, a sentiment echoed in Gartner’s latest report on sales transformation.
If companies want to survive in today’s business landscape, they need to adapt how they sell—and fast. Businesses must equip their sales and marketing teams with the right tactics and tech to pivot away from the previously reliable tactics of the pre-pandemic era and transition to digital first. To navigate a path forward and replenish the pipeline, here are three things they need to do: understand and unify teams behind the modern customer journey, invest in content and optimize their technology to support revenue operations.
The buyer journey is no longer a linear path towards conversion. It is a winding path that flows back and forth between education and engagement. The traditional “hand-off” from marketing to sales is no longer a one-time event but rather a repeated step that can happen multiple times in a single journey. To enable company success, sales and marketing must restructure their efforts to align with this new buyer journey. In short, they need to unify.
Unification of sales and marketing has been a long-time goal in business, but lack of communication and narrow perspective have historically been the two largest obstacles to achieving it. Restructuring efforts present the perfect opportunity to get teams on the same page.
Teams should start by remapping the customer journey together, walking through each phase and creating an agreed-upon definition of what qualifies a customer to be placed there.
This will do three things: create an intimate understanding of the new buyer journey, provide standardized definitions of customer phases and their qualifiers and foster better communication between teams. Additional organizational efforts such as centralized data will still need to be made, but this exercise lays the foundational work of uniting teams behind one goal—the buyer.
- Invest in content.
According to Forrester, today’s B2B buyers now navigate 60-70% of their purchasing journey in digital channels before ever interacting with a company representative. Why is that? Because our professional purchasing habits have changed to mirror those of our personal ones. Buyers today search for business purchases in the same way they browse Google to find a new pair of shoes.
This means that to capture the attention of your buyers, you need to bring them relevant content. While mapping each phase of your customers’ journey, you can look at what content works and begin creating a library of personalized and relevant content for your buyers. You need content where interested visitors can quickly find problems that resemble their problems, solutions they can imagine working for them and satisfied reference customers who look like them. They need to be able to find pricing guidance. They need to find the material to convince themselves and persuade others on the buying committee. If your website content is not converting visitors into leads and then playing an active role in full-funnel selling, your most important player isn’t in the game.
- Optimize tech to support revenue operations.
The last piece of the digital-first puzzle marketing and sales teams need to understand is revenue operations. Beyond strengthening sales and marketing strategies, attention must be paid to bolstering the technologies and data that support their operations and drive revenue. One place to start is conducting a technology audit to identify any gaps affecting revenue operations. To fill any holes, look for solutions that ensure a proper foundation for revenue generation, like marketing automation technology, marketing services or solutions that clean and enrich data.
Next, establish a single source of data from which both sales and marketing can work. This means disassembling data silos in both departments to create comprehensive customer profiles that offer 360-degree views of received communications and actions. This will allow sales and marketing to pinpoint where a prospective customer is on their purchasing journey. A click to sign up for a product demonstration or a social media message asking about different product bundles provides sales clear feedback that a lead has successfully shown intent to engage. With more data, marketing and sales can run more comprehensive reports and analytics to create additional strategies for attracting and retaining customers.
Our New Realities
Those in marketing and sales know the shift to digital wasn’t sudden or surprising. For years, B2B buyers have been migrating towards digital-first interactions and turning to self-service digital research. But while the change was inevitable, it brought a new set of expectations to the buying journey. Today, it’s our job to understand the new landscape we’re operating within, create seamless buying journeys that drive the bottom line and adapt to new technologies that allow us to exceed new expectations and make our jobs more efficient and impactful.